In the pre-Internet era, fan clubs were fun ways for kids to feel more connected to their favorite TV programs, radio programs, and even toy lines.
- Little Orphan Annie, a children’s radio program that aired between 1931 and 1942, had a fan club known as the Little Orphan Annie Secret Society.
- Star Wars, which premiered in movie theaters in 1977, was accompanied by The Official Star Wars Fan Club.
- G.I. Joe, which premiered on television in 1983, had a fan club that became known as the G.I. Joe Fan Club.
When Voltron: Defender of the Universe was originally in syndication, from 1984 to 1986, its viewers could join an official Voltron fan club called Voltron TeamForce.
Yes, TeamForce. The term is sort of like “possegang” or “Sahara Desert.” In defense of the club’s name, “TeamForce” is probably an awkward portmanteau of “Team” from “Vehicle Team” and “Force” from “Lion Force.” Whatever the case, who cares? The Voltron TeamForce was a club for fans of Voltron!
In the interest of full disclosure, as a kid I was never a member of the Voltron TeamForce — or any other fan club. It cost money to join fan clubs, and I chose to spend my allowance money on toys. Still, as a kid I was fascinated by fan clubs, and I remember reading ads for them and wishing I were a member.
When the 2011 debut of Voltron Force re-ignited my enthusiasm for Voltron, I began to collect all sorts of Voltron memorabilia — including two Voltron TeamForce membership kits. Let’s take a look at these kits and see what a member of the Voltron TeamForce received in the mail.
Each Voltron TeamForce membership kit arrived in a large, colorful envelope.
I’ve blurred the text of the first envelope’s mailing label. The second envelope’s mailing label is long gone.
Here are the contents of both envelopes. The first envelope contained everything shown in this photo except for the large, bagged, gray sheet in the lower center of the photo.
I purchased both envelopes in a single lot. Collectively the two envelopes appear to contain one complete membership kit, plus most of a second membership kit, although most of the contents had been stored inside just one of the envelopes. I suspect the kits’ original owners were siblings.
Here is the welcome letter. It was shipped folded in half. The front panel reads “WELCOME VOLTRON TEAMFORCE MEMBERS,” and the illustration includes the five Lions, a spacey background, and a stylized “V.”
The back panel features the 1980s Voltron: Defender of the Universe logo, plus a copyright notice.
Here is the unfolded welcome letter. Most welcome letters would be printed on simple, rectangular sheets of paper, but simple rectangles aren’t good enough for the Voltron TeamForce!
The welcome letter reads:
We send you greetings from Galaxy Garrison, headquarters for all of us in the Galaxy Alliance! We are so glad that you have joined us. Being a TeamForce member is a very important job. We all have a TeamForce Mission. Your mission is to keep your home, family, friends and neighborhood happy and safe. This kit will tell you many secrets on how you can become a good defender of your universe. And…there are fun things to do, too!
Because you are now a member of the Voltron TeamForce, we will send you a very special letter just for TeamForce members. It’s called TeamForce Tales. It iwll tell you about the exciting things we and kids like you are doing to defend the universe. Maybe we’ll even write about you! Just let Voltron know how you are working to help him with the TeamForce mission at home. Write to:
P.O. Box 8719
Clinton, Iowa 52736
Now that you are a member of the Voltron TeamForce, be sure to join our adventures every day on your local TV station. We’ll be looking for all of our members!
LET’S GO VOLTRON TEAMFORCE!
WELCOME VOLTRON TEAMFORCE MEMBERS
Here is the most essential item in any fan club membership kit: the ID card! Here is the front of the card:
The card front reads:
Voltron: Defender of the Universe
I, COMMANDER KEITH,
DO HEREBY DECLARE
AS A MEMBER OF
THE VOLTRON TEAMFORCE
Presumably the name was left blank so that kids could invent a cool code name for themselves, like… uh… Pidge.
Here is the back of the card. Who doesn’t love this? It’s a full-color illustration of a Lion key! I wonder which Lion this key activates. The keys looked identical on TV, and yet each pilot seemed to know which Lion a given key would activate. Oh well.
The card back reads:
OFFICIAL MEMBER OF THE VOLTRON TEAMFORCE
The membership kit also contained this single-sided flyer, which announced the forthcoming new batch of Voltron: Defender of the Universe episodes that would feature the Lion Force.
The flyer reads:
Brand new Lion Force Voltron episodes are coming to your local TV station this fall…lots of new, exciting adventures that will begin the week of October 20.
* Don’t miss the return of Sven!…
* Haggar’s new Robeast…
* The magic of King Alfor…
* And Lotor’s revenge!
Watch us battle 4 Robeasts that assemble to form an evil Super-Robeast!
Meet Lotor’s new evil assistant Cossack! And from the darkest regions of the Doom Empire, Lotor’s cousin Merla!
This September watch your local TV station for details on how you could win big Voltron prizes.
Commander Keith and Princess Allura and Pidge are coming to meet you at toy stores in your city this fall. Stay tuned for all the details.
The text in the flyer dates the Voltron TeamForce membership kit to sometime in early to mid-1985. By this point, all 52 Lion Force episodes of Voltron: Defender of the Universe that had been adapted from Beast King Golion would have aired, as well as all 52 Vehicle Team episodes, which were adapted from Armored Fleet Dairugger XV. (At that time, we kids knew nothing about Golion or Dairugger.)
The final 21 episodes of Voltron: Defender of the Universe would begin to air on October 21, 1985. Twenty episodes featured only Lion Force Voltron, and the final, double-length episode, “Fleet of Doom,” would feature both Lion Force Voltron and Vehicle Team Voltron. The twenty, Lion Force-only episodes featured everything described on the flyer — everything, that is, except the “4 Robeasts that assemble to form an evil Super-Robeast.” These Robeasts were featured in “Fleet of Doom.”
It’s interesting that Vehicle Team Voltron is featured on the flyer, when it’s clear that the flyer is reasssuring kids that Lion Force Voltron will return in the fall. By this point World Events Productions almost certainly knew that Lion Force Voltron was more popular than Vehicle Team Voltron, because this is the only reference to Vehicle Team Voltron in the entire membership kit.
This flyer was also printed in many Voltron coloring and activity books of the time. The coloring and activity books were published by Modern Publishing, a division of Unisystems, Inc., so it’s likely that Modern Publishing also published the Voltron TeamForce kits. (Modern also published the three-issue comic book mini-series.)
The kit also included a fold-out poster of Lion Force Voltron. The art on the poster is really cool!
Another item in the kit is this… thing. It was packed flat in a plain, white envelope.
In any case, the… thing is best described by what’s printed on the top face:
Voltron: Defender of the Universe
Rules for Good Defenders
Here’s the bottom face.
The bottom face reads:
Let Voltron know you are a good Defender. Write to:
P.O. Box 8719
Clinton, Iowa 52736
(c) W.E.P. 1984
The… thing pops up into a twelve-sided, three-dimensional shape. I don’t know what a shape of this kind might be called. Because it contains rules for Good Defenders, I’ll call it a gooddefenderhedron.
Let’s examine each of the gooddefenderhedron’s six illustrations and associated captions.
The first of the six images features Keith presenting flowers to Princess Allura. The caption reads: “A Good Defender Shares With Family And Friends”
Keith and Allura, with a caption about family and friends. Were Keith and Allura married in this photo? Were they just friends? Let the fan fiction commence!
The second of the six images features Pidge sitting near a recently planted tree. The caption reads: “A Good Defender Loves His/Her Planet”
It makes sense that the pilot of Green Lion would have a green thumb. As an aside, I love that this caption is inclusive of boys and girls. Then again, the writers of the caption might just be confused about Pidge’s gender.
The third of the images features Hunk helping a girl across the street at an intersection. The caption reads: “A Good Defender Looks After Others”
Where are Hunk and the girl? On Arus? Outside the Castle of Lions and the Lion Dens, is there even electricity to power traffic lights? In the TV series, much of Arus is shown to resemble ancient Greece.
The fourth image shows Pidge putting a garbage bag into a trash can outside of what appears to be a house. The caption reads: “A Good Defender Helps Around the House”
In all of these images, Pidge is missing his headband. In this image he’s breaking a sweat from carrying the garbage bag. What’s in that bag? Lead? Robot Lion litter box… stuff? Maybe it’s better that we don’t know.
The fifth image shows a girl — or a boy with a mullet — holding a flower while standing in front of Coran, who is sitting in a chair. The caption reads: “A Good Defender Makes People Smile”
What would make Coran smile? The flower? The mullet? The chair? Or simply having a few seconds away from Nanny?
The sixth image shows Pidge once again, this time throwing a paper cup into a waste basket. The caption reads: “A Good Defender Keeps Neighborhoods Clean”
I’m just glad that throwing a paper cup doesn’t make Pidge sweat.
I’ve been picking on Pidge an awful lot, but in all honesty, I’ve always liked him. Having said that, in his honor I’d like to propose a seventh image for the gooddefenderhedron — a picture of Pidge with a guilty look on his face. The caption would be: “A Good Defender Avoids Inhaling Helium”
The final item in the Voltron TeamForce membership kit is a game and a glossary! These elements are printed on a single, glossy sheet of paper with perforations around each piece.
The game consists of a game card, 25 tokens, and instructions. The game card resembles a 5×5 Bingo card.
The text in the game card reads:
Red Lion | Bendor | Lotor | Castle Doom | Yellow Lion
Zarkon | Lance | Castle of Lions | Sven | Coran
Allura | Blue Lion | Voltron | Keith | Black Lion
Alfor | Mice | Green Lion | Haggar | Romelle
Nanny | Yurak | Pidge | Blue Cat | Hunk
Each token is a circle that contains a small illustration of one of the items described on the game card.
Here are the instructions:
1. Punch out all of the circles on this card to use as your game tokens.
2. As you watch an episode of Voltron, Defender of the Universe, listen for the words shown on your game card.
3. When you hear one of the words shown on the game card, place a game token over it.
4. You win when you have five game tokens placed in a straight line across the game board, straight up and down on the game card, or diagonally on the game card.
5. If you like, you can match the pictures on your game tokens to the words shown on the game cards, too!
So the game is basically Bingo — or a drinking game, minus the drinks.
Finally, let’s look at the Glossary. As a Voltron encyclopedist (Let’s do lunch, anyone in charge of Voltron licensing!), I like this sort of thing.
Let’s learn all that there is to learn from this glossary!
Alfor: The ghost of the good king and former ruler of Planet Arus.
Allura: The daughter of Alfor and pilot of the Blue Lion.
Bandor: Cousin to Allura and brother to Princess Romelle.
Black Lion: Piloted by Commander Keith and forms the head of Voltron.
Blue Cat: Haggar’s evil pet.
Blue Lion: Piloted by Allura. Forms Voltron’s right leg.
Castle Doom: The Black castle where the evil Zarkon lives.
Castle of Lions: Home of King Alfor and Princess Allura on Planet Arus.
Coran: The good counselor to King Alfor and protector of Princess Allura.
Green Lion: Piloted by Pidge and forms Voltron’s left arm.
Haggar: The witch who helps the evil Zarkon make robeasts.
Hunk: One of the Voltron Force and pilot of the Yellow Lion.
Keith: Commander of the Voltron Force and pilot of the Black Lion.
Lance: Member of the Voltron Force and pilot of the Red Lion.
Lotor: The evil Prince.
Mice: Allura’s furry friends.
Nanny: Allura’s nursemaid.
Pidge: Member of the Voltron Force and pilot of the Green Lion.
Red Lion: Piloted by Lance and forms Voltron’s right arm.
Romelle: Cousin of Princess Allura.
Sven: An original member of the Voltron Force before the defeat of Planet Arus.
Voltron: A might robot who defends the universe against the forces of evil.
Yellow Lion: The evil general on Planet Doom.
Zarkon: The evil monarch of the fearful Planet Doom.
I couldn’t help but notice some inaccuracies in the glossary. Maybe I should write to Voltron in Clinton, Iowa, and let him know. Maybe my corrections will be published in TeamForce Tales. I bet they would be if I took my letter to the post office in a garbage bag, while I broke a sweat and was dressed like Pidge.
On a serious note, this membership kit looks like a lot of fun. I imagine that, as a kid, I would have been thrilled to have received something like this as a gift. I don’t know what it cost to join Voltron TeamForce, but the full-color poster alone is really nice, the ID card is a must-have, and the rest of the goodies are fun, too!
Let’s go, Voltron TeamForce!